Actress and singer Nina Sibirtzeva (1899, Russia–1957, Buenos Aires) developed her inconspicuous career in the popular Jewish theater in Russia and Eastern Europe and moved to Buenos Aires in 1938, where she adapted her repertoire and from where she toured other cities in the Americas, always performing on circuits that were removed from mainstream entertainment. What can we make of her obscure journey? This article attempts to understand Sibirtzeva’s artistic choices and, through them, some structural but unexplored aspects of the globalization of popular music in the twentieth century. Based on evidence rescued from the almost destroyed archives of the IWO (Idisher Visnshaftlejer Institut or Yiddish Research Institute) in Buenos Aires, the article focuses on the meaning of the words popular and populism in music; the engagement of popular artists with musical technologies, markets, migration, and politics; and the conceptual and historiographical question of how to deal with biographies that do not match the cultural mainstream, operating instead at the intersection of different cultural streams.


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pp. 260-282
Launched on MUSE
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